PA: A Potentially Explosive Mix of the Worst Election Laws in A Potentially Decisive State

From the Washington Post:

It’s not Election Day that worries most county officials. It’s the next stage — the count.

This spring, in the primary, it took 10 days for the county elections office to count about 30,000 mail-in ballots. With more than 70,000 expected this time around, Erie officials have hired up, going from eight to 15 workers opening envelopes and feeding ballots into the tallying machines. They’ve added hours — counting will start each day at 7 a.m., three hours earlier than during the primary. And they’ve added machines, including a second high-speed scanner to read ballots and an automatic letter-opener that can unseal 20,000 ballots per hour, Smith said.

Each envelope takes about 90 seconds to scan and prepare for counting, work that Smith would love to do ahead of time. But a state law prohibits opening and preparing mail-in envelopes for tallying before Election Day and counting those ballots before the polls close. So far, neither lawmakers nor the courts have approved a change to the rules. [emphasis added]

All that work will take place in counting rooms jammed with people trying to oversee every move. Salmon said Republicans will deploy an army of pollwatchers, lawyers and count observers. Wertz said Democrats will do the same, with more than 200 volunteers around the county and two shifts of observers in the counting rooms.

The scene can look chaotic and crowded, but it works, Republicans and Democrats agree. “We do everything in our power to keep each vote, even if the signature is sloppy and it’s changed over 15 years,” said county councilman Shank, who acts, along with his fellow council members, as Erie’s board of elections.

Still, every day a final count is delayed could undermine trust in the outcome, many in the county say.

“The integrity of the vote is going to be questioned,” said Dillon, the open-carry activist. “It doesn’t make sense that we have to wait weeks before learning who won.”

Despite the drive to accelerate the count, “they’re so far from having the resources they need, it’s not even funny,” Hayes, the Republican legislative candidate, said after meeting with local police chiefs and election officials. “If we get an answer within three weeks, I’ll be surprised.”


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